Fleeting Demographic Rule
aka: Seven Year Rule
A gimmick or storyline may be reused freely and safely after a few years of dormancy.
The unwritten rule that, after a given number of years, there has been enough turnover in the fanbase that a writer can re-use the same gimmicks and storylines with impunity.
The general principle applies to any work that is enough of a Long Runner
and/or has enough of a Fleeting Demographic
to outlast most of its initial fanbase.
For example, during the Silver Age
of comics, the writers assumed that their demographic was kids ages 9-11 — which would make a three-year turnover safe — and that their demographic rarely read comics frequently enough to notice the repetition. They also believed that even if they did read them often, they wouldn't notice
. This has been turned away from in recent times because comics are now written by people who love continuity
; if they make events repeat, then they'll eventually come up with a metaplot to explain it. Also, the rise of the Internet has made it trivial to compare works that are years or decades apart, making it practically impossible for writers to pull this off unnoticed.
Not the same as Older Than They Think
, this trope's influence extends to tropes, plots, lines and gimmicks of more recent vintage, that the viewer can be reasonably expected to have seen since it was The Big Cool New Thing just a couple of years ago — and a couple of years before that, and a couple of years before that, and...
of this practice falls under Didn't We Use This Joke Already?
Compare Recycled Script
. Contrast Spiritual Successor
where the writers don't have to pretend this isn't a rehash - because it isn't truly
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Anime & Manga
- The Pokémon anime is particularly bad about this. Easily done because most of it is Filler.
- Probably the most obvious is that (starting with Hoenn) every time Ash goes to a new region, he meets a girl who will soon be his new traveling companion and accidentally destroys her bicycle,note mirroring the beginning of the first season.
- Starting with Hoenn, the writers also employ the Bag of Spilling by having Ash drop off all of his Pokemon (save Pikachu) to train new monsters.note Except that Pikachu always suffers from Level Drain just afterwards.note
Unfortunately, Best Wishes expands the Level Drain as Ashnote kept on making mistakes that one would typically expect a rookie Trainer to make. Which was made even more cringeworthy when he lost to an actual rookie in the Unova League.
- One of the most blatant (and non-filler) examples: In Hoenn, Ash enters a PokéRinger event in which flying Pokemon compete to collect rings and place them on goal posts. Ash uses his Taillow, a bird Pokemon, which evolves during the competition and surprises its opponent by hitting the ring onto the goal with its wing, rather than carrying it in its beak. An episode that aired about five years later repeated this plot exactly; just replace Hoenn with Sinnoh, Taillow with Staravia, and Swellow with Staraptor.note Both episodes even use the exact same background music during their respective climaxes.
- On the other hand, despite the recycled plots, there's still quite a bit of continuity, with references to episodes that aired over ten years prior being made. Along with the end of the Best Wishes series bringing Charizard back. It gives the impression that the writers are trying to have their cake and eat it too.note
- This is probably why the Mewtwo in Pokémon: Genesect and the Legend Awakened is a new character, instead of the one from Pokémon: The First Movie and Pokémon: Mewtwo Returns. Unfortunately, it seems to have backfired.
- Ano Natsu De Matteru is a Spiritual Successor of Please Teacher!, almost a walking carbon copy even. Proving why this trope exists, far more people are comparing it to the more recent Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day, despite the only similarities between the two series being they're about a group of high-schoolers, there's romance and the same director is involved.
- Executive Meddling led to this happening during the fourth season of Sailor Moon, since the execs were convinced that the girls who had been watching the show since the beginning were now growing out of it. In addition to simplifying the plot, the ReTool jettisoned the Outer Senshi and tried to put the spotlight back on the core cast and Chibiusa (who the execs thought would appeal to younger girls). The plan backfired, and the series suffered a ratings slump as a result.
- The rule of thumb in the comics business used to be "No one has a memory over five years old." It was believed that readership would turn over in five year cycles, as older kids stopped reading comics, and younger kids started. The notion of a significant number of fans reading comics well into their late teens or adulthood was never really considered in the Golden Age or Silver Age.
- Reprints were more common in the Silver Age, though still relatively rare in superhero comics. The "five year rule" was probably a more reliable guide for, say, "teen humor" comics, where a story would probably be just as good (or not-so-good) in 1970 as it was in 1965. This was particularly common in Marvel's various Millie the Model titles. A story first printed in Millie the Model might turn up in Mad About Millie or Chili several years later.
- Reprints were not at all rare in the "Giant-Sized" or "100-Page Special" comics. A typical one would have one new story and three or four reprints. This was not so much "putting something over on the readers" as "allowing the younger generation to read a 'classic' story." Origin stories ("Where did this Bizarro dude come from?") and continuity porn ("Hey, why is there a giant penny in the Batcave, anyway?") were especially popular choices for reprinting.
- Shazam in the 1970s was notable in that even the regular issues were usually split between new stories and reprints from the Fawcett era. However, since Fawcett had stopped publishing Captain Marvel stories in 1953, it was a fairly safe bet that they were new to the vast majority of readers.
- Note that this really no longer applies in mainstream superhero comic books, where referencing a minor plot point from decades ago is now considered normal and good. "When did Amanada Waller get her hands on a Manhunter robot?" "During the Millenium crossover, 23 years ago. Try to keep up, dude."
- Cartoons of comics are even worse about this, but at least have an excuse. They can simply say that they are trying to popularize a comic to a younger generation by making a new series. Hence, X-Men is followed by X-Men: Evolution and Wolverine and the X-Men, Batman: The Animated Series by Batman Beyond (which at least makes an attempt to do a new plotline), The Batman, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and Beware the Batman, as well as the various Justice League/Superman incarnations.
- The main reason this happens is the 21st century superhero movie boom. Companies like to have cartoons to cash-in on the hype every time a new superhero film comes out, which leads to characters getting multiple TV shows in the span of a few years (The Batman was launched after Batman Begins, Brave and the Bold after The Dark Knight, and Beware after The Dark Knight Rises).
- In old-school Silver Age Superman and Superboy comics, plots were reused frequently, and not just in a "this bears a passing resemblance to that other story" way. More like, Jimmy becomes a werewolf under circumstances that are similar to but completely unrelated to the time it happened three years ago. (Real years, not comic years.) Superboy also became the leader of a wolf pack twice. And Lois or Lana got Supes' powers on enough occasions you may as well consider them reserve superheroes.
- Craig "Mr. Silver Age" Shutt, in his book Baby Boomer Comics, cataloged 53 "duplicated" Superman stories. Typically, the rewrites would be printed 5-15 years after the original stories, but one Lois Lane story was reused only one year after its first telling.
- Eventually the writers caved and Lana did become a superhero in her own right - Insect Queen. While this has since been retconned away, there is a current Insect Queen in the DC Universe...with the name of Lonna Leing.
- This happened in the Golden Age too, when THE EXACT SAME STORIES were sometimes used only with new drawn pictures.
- The writers of Teen Titans have also maintained a consistent attachment to the concept "Raven goes evil because of her demonic father".
- This is at least in part because of Marv Wolfman's immense success with the 'New Teen Titans', which was at the time DC's best selling and most highly acclaimed title for a good while. Many storylines attempt to ape the success of his, with some success and some....not so much success at times.
- Not just Raven. If it's Wednesday, there's a good chance they'll be fighting a group of evil Titans. Or one of them will die.
- Titans: Paper, Scissors, Stone actually lampshades this last part as an explicit and inseparable part of the Titans mythos, and one that the new group's leader failed to take into account when she set out to recreate the circumstances of the team's forming.
- Secret Invasion and Civil War, were awfully similar to past Marvel Universe storylines (ROM: Spaceknight and many, many old mutant registration acts), and no hero involved noticed (except the Mutants themselves, whose response to the other heroes asking them to get involved in the Registration conflict, after never once helping when the mutants had to deal with such issues, was an emphatic "Sucks, don't it?").
- And both of these were extremely similar to earlier storylines done in Astro City.
- Also House of M. How many times have the heroes woken up one morning to see reality has been changed drastically and they need to fix it? Enough that Cap and Hawkeye's reaction back in "The Morgan Conquest" was basically, "Not again!"
- Spider-Man examples:
- Used as justification by the editors of Spider-Man for the "One More Day" continuity reboot, under the theory that if they stick to their guns through reader complaints for five years, no one will have enough of an attention span to remember it ever happened. Proven wrong five years later in 2012, where you could still turn over any metaphorical rock on the Internet and find someone still griping about "One More Day..." and Amazing Spider-Man sales declined throughout.
- "The Clone Saga" hit the Spider-books in the early 90's, with a similar goal. By the end, was widely considered a huge failure, and Marvel ended up backtracking on its big changes.
- The Avengers have had no less than three separate stories with the basic premise of "The team is criticized for its complete lack of diversity. An inexperienced/unqualified black superhero is added to the roster, creating friction with the white Avengers. Drama ensues." First time it was The Falcon, second time it was Rage, and third time it was Triathlon.
- Wonderfully averted in 52. Booster Gold's storyline was originally going to be finding evidence that the time line was broken, falling apart at the seams, and he would need to fix it to restore order. As the four writers of the book got to work though, they realized each of them had been through this before and none of them really wanted to do it again ("Unless there was a prize for being the hundredth people to write one"). Thus before they got too far into the story, they reworked Booster's storyline so that he spent it butting heads with a new hero called Supernova who turns out to be Booster (isn't time travel fun?), which led into a conspiracy about a time-traveling superhero.
- In The Beano, The Dandy and other British Comics the fleeting demographic rule can sometimes apply to reprints. In that they wait a few years after a strip ends until they begin to reprint the strip. This is because the usual reader only reads the comic for 4 or 5 years and so there is a lot of reader turnover.
- X-Men as an entire franchise has arguably been doing this since 1991. Whatever changes are made to characters, most last five or so years before going back to the status quo that Chris Claremont had before he left the book. It's notable that Claremont himself did not subscribe to this, and things kept changing constantly during his run, and never went completely back to normal most of the time. Apparently, it never occurs to Marvel that this might be why the Claremont years are looked upon as the golden era of X-Men comics.
- The original run of long-running (1954-93) weekly UK football comic Roy Of The Rovers was hit hard with this; the summer strips generally involved the Melchester Rovers team touring some South American country and getting kidnapped to keep the story exciting. Since Fleetway didn't think anyone would keep reading longer than three years, Roy was kidnapped five times in 10 years. This sort of thing was parodied in the Viz strip Billy the Fish.
- Archie Comics — being a series marketed to a younger audience and thus one with a much higher turnover rate — has never had problems reusing story lines, the only difference between them being the art and the characters' fashions. With the advent of their drama-focused Life with Archie series and the popularity of gay character Kevin Keller, it's been interesting to see the company find success by taking new creative risks.
- The trailers for Spy Kids 4D are hyping the Smell-O-Vision as if it's a new, revolutionary thing. Not to mention that the film itself came out eight years after the prior entry in the series, Spy Kids 3D, and ten years since the first one. The children who were in the target audience when the original films came out are all grown up while the children currently in the target audience will have probably never heard of the series before (after all, it didn't exactly stay in the public consciousness after it left theaters). As such, the franchise was essentially remarketed as though new.
- 3D films itself fall into this, as (though the technology behind it has improved) they were fads in The Fifties, The Seventies and The Nineties, each time being touted as though it had never been done before. Advances in technology over the increasingly primitive previous iterations plus this very trope in action lets theaters and movie producers get away with this.
- James Bond
- The franchise are infamous for announcing ahead of virtually every Bond film that this time the Bond girl will be an Action Girl who is treated as an equal match for Bond, which is then immediately forgotten and next time the idea is again treated as new.
- Daniel Craig is not the first new Bond to be Darker and Edgier. A general rule of thumb is that Bond switches between being camp and being serious each time they change actors.
- This seems to be the rationale for Remakes in general.
- Similarly to the Spy Kids example above, the sequel to Cats & Dogs came out when the kids who had seen the original were too old to see the sequel, and the kids who would see the sequel were too young to have seen the original.
- Used in-universe in Watership Down, due to rabbits' short lifespan. The main events of the novel are the stuff of legend some five years later, and humans are portrayed as driving cars and smoking cigarettes in the mythic past.
Live Action TV
Networks for kids and young adults are this way. They know that in five years they're going to have a completely new crop of the target audience, and the crop from five years ago will begin to notice the reused plots and complain.
- Some Star Treks overused their stock plots ad nauseam. The Negative Space Wedgie turning the Holodeck into a death trap is a favorite of Next Generation and Voyager. Just which character is trying to eat them changes... the formula doesn't. Would that it only happened once every two years. And Enterprise basically ate itself this way. Oh, look, more aliens in Nazi uniforms.
- Stargate SG-1 self-consciously makes use of this by having similar plotlines (time travel, alternate dimensions) refer to or even depend on previous episodes with similar plots. A Genre Savvy bunch, SG-1.
- Each time they encounter the same phenomena they will always recap the events of the previous mission, and try to figure out if what they learned that time can be useful again. In Stargate Atlantis sometimes the same solution is used again (or the same problem), with a twist.
- Sometimes if the plot is similar to that from another media, this will even be lampshaded within the story, such as an episode involving a "Groundhog Day" Loop when O'Neill referred to the villain who had engineered it as "The King of Groundhog Day".
- The Stargate franchise has never been afraid of metahumor. A number of SG-1 episodes hinge on the US military providing technical assistance to a sci-fi show about a secret military team that covertly fights aliens, in order to give themselves plausible deniability. Consider for a moment the plot of SG-1, and that they are Backed by the Pentagon to the point of casting actual American military personnel for bit characters (including two Chiefs of Staff playing themselves), and you can only imagine how fun the Wild Mass Guessing for that show can be.
- Super Sentai (and by extension Power Rangers) has this going on in regards to their seasonal themes.
- Sentai's Super Hero Time partner, Kamen Rider, has had three shows in which the riders have card-based powers: The Advent Cards of Kamen Rider Ryuki (2002), the Rouze Cards of Kamen Rider Blade (2004), and the Rider Cards of Kamen Rider Decade (2009), which grants the power of the previous Kamen Riders. This is lampshaded in Super Hero Taisen, when Decade, Blade, and Ryuki are each given a card from the Tensou Sentai Goseiger, the Sentai team which used cards, to help defeat Doktor G (Narutaki in disguise).
- Both Barney and Sesame Street are subject to this.
- The current incarnation of Degrassi has been on TV so long (over a decade) the the show routinely recycles storylines and only slightly updates them depending on the character. For example, the show has dealt with teen pregnancy at least five times (Manny, Emma, Liberty, Anya, and Jenna). An episode in which Emma almost became the victim of a pedophile she met online was recycled twice, first with Darcy and then later with Connor.
- 106&Park used to have a segment called the "Old School Joint of the Day". Originally they did play videos that were at least a decade or so old with guests even picking some of their favorite songs for the video. As the show went on they began to play younger and younger videos. After people, even A.J. and Free who were hosting at the time, started to complain the segment began to alternate with "The Flashback Joint of the Day" where they could play songs that were only a few years old without drawing the ire of people who knew they weren't really "old school".
- Terrance Dicks, Doctor Who script editor during the early 1970s and writer for a longer time, has expressed this in terms of respect for the audience, recommending as a general role that the audience should never be expected to remember canon details from episodes broadcast more than two years before. Note that this was from an age before VHS or DVD.
- It was also an age before you could be absolutely certain that reruns happened, or otherwise we'd not have lost episodes of, among other shows, Doctor Who. If you're expecting to actually gain new viewers, it's actually quite nice to presume that not everybody was watching two years ago, and those who were cannot be expected to have remembered details from an episode that only ran once (maybe twice) so far back.
- An example and subversion: One season, the producer and head writer of Doctor Who were planning out the year and decided "It's about time for Terry Nation to do another Dalek story for us again." So they asked him for a Dalek story, and he wrote a Dalek story, but they realized "we like it, but we like it so much, we may have already bought it once or twice." To break the repetition, they had him write a different story, which became "Genesis of the Daleks", which is now considered a classic.
- Much like the James Bond example above, the producers have said several times over the years that the Doctor's next companion is going to be a 'strong female character who can think for herself' as though they've never done it before. In fact Barbara, one of the three original companions of the 1st Doctor was a strong female character who could think for herself.
- Law & Order: UK consciously recycles numerous storylines from the original Law & Order into the British legal system.
- On Home and Away, Martha discovered that her boyfriend was in a marriage of convenience. Surprisingly, this did not remind her of her love affair with Ash nearly three years earlier, which ended because he was married with kids and wasn't about to leave them.
- Hilariously subverted on Saturday Night Live. John Goodman was hosting, along with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. During his monologue, an audience member stopped him to ask if this was a repeat. John reassured that it wasn't-given that it was a live broadcast and all- but kept getting interrupted by members of the audience who insisted that it was a repeat from a few years ago when John also hosted with Tom Petty as the musical guest. John even brought out Jimmy Fallon, a cast member at that time, who agreed with the audience that this show was, in fact, a repeat and that he remembers it because it was aired when he was in high school.
- Virtually every episode from the last few seasons of Bewitched (the Dick Sargent years) re-used the plot of an episode from the Dick York era.
- Sometimes happens on QI. If watching the show from the beginning, you will occasionally hear the same joke twice (not as a Running Gag), or hear a question based on something that was already discussed at length in a previous episode.
- One example is the story about how Kangaroos got their name and what it means. This
story myth was told twice at length in two different episodes. The second time offers no reference to the first, so it isn't an In Joke.
- In Series H, Stephen Fry finished one episode with a scat joke about pathologists and dead bodies. This joke was already told by Alan Davies, several seasons back.
- In Series J, Stephen asks how elephants drink. Alan suggests using its trunk and gets a forfeit, and Jimmy Carr quips that they drink to forget. Back in series A, during a question about elephants' lack of tolerance for alcohol, Alan made the same mistake (without forfeit) and Clive Anderson made the same joke.
- In the "Fire and Freezing" episode, one of the facts was that fire stations are now often built on one story to avoid spending time getting downstairs even by way of the pole. In "Inland Revenue," when fireman's poles were mentioned again, Al Murray asked why they don't just build on one story if speed is such a concern. Stephen and the other panellists came up with reasons like needing room for the fire engines, and nobody seemed to remember learning otherwise.
- They occasionally do catch these (more than once in the form of Alan contributing an interesting fact only for Stephen to point out that he learned it on QI).
- And then subverted when they ask questions which have been asked before (the infamous "How many moons does the Earth have?" incidents) and (predictably) Alan provides the previous answer only to find out it's now wrong.
- Buffy: Season seven episode "Him" rehashes the plot of season two episode "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" (a love spell gone wrong causes many women to fall blindly for the same guy, with terrible consequences), only written much, much worse. Xander even reminisces fondly about the prior event (including his best friend leading a mob of women and trying to kill him with an axe).
- There were also multiple episodes based on the characters' fears becoming manifest, though for different reasons. A first season episode based on folks' nightmares, and a fourth season episode with a haunted house.
- Also, bad things happen on Buffy's birthday with such regularity that the characters pretty much begin planning for it as the series goes on.
- That was more of a running gag than this trope because it happened once a season. Whedon probably didn't expect his demographic to change after every single season. Whedon said himself "happy people make boring television", so why would Buffy's birthday be any different.
- Angel, would occasionally reuse plots from its parent show. For instance, both shows have an episode that involves the main cast getting amnesia and meeting each other for the first time again. To be fair, by the time that plot got used, the shows aired on different networks. Plus the fact that Angel had a slightly different premise, much different tone, and most importantly, completely different characters. Put the same characters in a different situation, and they react differently. Put different characters in the same situation. . . and they react differently.
- Many of the skits in the revival of All That were rehashes and reimaginings of the skits from the original set ("Cooking With Randy" became "Coffee And Sugar," Repairman/Detective Dan/Stuart became Randy Quench: Volunteer Fireman, etc.), which ended three years prior. This became especially obvious in the ten year anniversary special, which involved new skits from both sets.
- A related version happens in TV made for toddlers. In the cases of In The Night Garden, only 100 episodes were ever commissioned, despite being wildly popular. The logic is that the demographic will only watch for two years then grow out of the show, meaning after 100 episodes you can start from the beginning again and nobody but adults will notice. This is also the reason why the show has no overarching plot or a an episode that acknowledges itself as the first or last.
- This is similar to many studios only commissioning 65 episodes for its kids', tween, early and late teen shows. It takes a monumental push by fans to get more of the same show instead of using the same 65 scripts for the next one they churn out. This was a pretty big issue in the mid 2000s where the hugely popular Lizzie McGuire ended at 65 episodes in just 2 seasons and Kim Possible needed an obscure contract from a German television station to get a 4th season. Hannah Montana and Wizards of Waverly Place have over 85 and The Suite Life on Deck has over 100 when you count both series.
- Originally, this practice started as something of an insurance policy for all sides — if the show did well, great, it would be signed up for more than 65 episodes. On the other hand, if it bombed and was canceled, 65 was the minimum most stations would purchase for syndication (allowing them to run the show each weekday for 13 weeks without repeats). By ensuring that there would be at least that number of episodes, the producers hoped to guarantee they would make at least some money off the show, and this worked reasonably well. (Famously, the first seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation were produced under such a deal.) But add in the idea that your shows are basically interchangeable dreck that nobody cares too closely about and you end up switching shows each time the grace period expires.
- Parodied on Have I Got News for You: an episode had Boris Johnson and Janet Street-Porter as guests, then the following year they both happened to be booked the same week again. Angus Deayton lampshaded this by joking that due to a legal loophole, it was cheaper for the BBC to film the same episode over again rather than just repeat it.
- Disney Channel live-action shows, when compared across the board, fall heavily in this trope (not surprising considering the Fleeting Demographic is considered especially in play).
- Seasons 1 and 4 of Smallville both involve an episode in which Clark wants to try out for football, and his parents are against it because of his superpowers. There were, however, some key differences. The first time he ended up dropping out, the second time he stayed on the team at the end of the episode. Also, in the first episode it was the main storyline, while it was a B-plot in season 4.
- Supernatural: In season 5, Castiel gradually lost his powers as a result of being cut off from Heaven until he was eventually turned into a normal human. Four seasons later, he's turned into a human again for season 9. His first stint as a human is never even mentioned. Word of God has even mistakenly referred to him as being human for the first time.
- Bridal magazines presume that their readers will only be subscribing for the duration of their engagements, and thus repeat articles (with very slight tweaks) on a 16-20 month cycle.
- Coined by Professional Wrestling promoter, writer, on-air personality, and general jack-of-all-trades Jim Cornette, the Seven Year Rule is the unwritten pro wrestling rule that, after seven years, there has been enough turnover in the fanbase that a writer can re-use the same gimmicks and story lines with impunity. As the theory goes, any wait shorter than seven years may result in fans noticing the rehashing, and calling the promotion on the re-use. After that, a few diehard longtime fans may notice and become upset, but almost everybody will accept the product as new.
- Certain character stereotypes occur so often in Professional Wrestling that it is not unusual to have more than one example thereof existing at the same time - albeit necessarily on different TV shows or in different promotions. Whereas WWE boasts a mentally unstable "monster" who uses the Chokeslam finisher named Kane, TNA has a mentally unstable "monster" who uses the Chokeslam as a signature move named Abyss. And in late 2004/early 2005, this mimicry was seen within WWE itself as Gene Snitsky and Jon Heidenreich each performed the role of an intense monster Heel with Punctuated! For! Emphasis! speaking patterns on Raw and SmackDown, respectively. Both of them spawned IWC memes (Snitsky's "It Wasn't My Fault" and Heidenreich's "Heidenrape") They even lampshaded this fact at the 2004 Survivor Series when they met for the first time, as well as had feuds in the same time frame with the Brothers of Destruction.
- "The Narcissist" Lex Luger was recycled as "The Reflection of Perfection" Mark Jindrak after 11 years, complete with a hammy manager to talk him up.
- See also "The Masterpiece," Chris Masters, in 2005-07.
- Though the name similarity isn't there, many people see the similarities between Mr. Perfect, and Dolph Ziggler: long blond hair, tan skin, and an obsession with "perfection" (the former's nickname, the latter's second theme song.) Ziggler's manager is also an authority figure (see Triple H and Steph below).
- The Four Horsemen first formed in 1986 with Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Ole Anderson, and Tully Blanchard, and at one time held the NWA World Heavyweight Title, the NWA World (Mid-Atlantic, the only recognized version by that point) Tag Team Titles, and the NWA World Television Title. They went through a few different lineups on and off until Real Life Pointy-Haired Boss Jim Herd fired Flair from WCW before the infamous WCW Great American Bash 1991 PPV. There was a brief reformation in 1993, but the group didn't really come together full force until Flair turned on Sting during their match against Arn Anderson and Brian Pillman at WCW Halloween Havoc 1995, October 30, 1995, and the introduction of Chris Benoit as the fourth member the next night on WCW Monday Nitro. Pillman left after a Worked Shoot with "The Taskmaster" Kevin Sullivan at WCW SuperBrawl VI, intended to put over Pillman's "Loose Cannon" persona, in February 1996. Former Chicago Bears football player turned color-commentator Steve "Mongo" McMichael was added in his in-ring debut when he turned on his partner, fellow football player Kevin Greene, in their match with Flair and Arn at WCW Great American Bash 96. Jeff Jarrett was added in October 1996, and Arn had his last match at the start of 1997, declaring his retirement on the August 25, 1997 Nitro, with Curt Hennig accepting Arn's "spot" in the group. Hennig turned on the Horsemen in the War Games match against the NWO (Kevin Nash/Syxx Sean Waltman/Konnan/Buff Bagwell) at WCW Fall Brawl, September 14, 1997, shutting the group down for a year. Then Real Life Jerkass Bad Boss Eric Bischoff sued Flair after Flair had no-shown a taping of WCW Thunder in April 1998. Flair returned on the September 14 Nitro, as Arn and long-time Horsemen manager JJ Dillon introduced the new lineup of the Horsemen: Benoit, McMichael, Dean Malenko (who had been pushing Arn for months to reform the group) and Flair. McMichael left quietly in early 1999, and the group dissolved in the middle of the year.
- Flair started accompanying Triple H to his matches starting after WWE Unforgiven in October 2002. Batista moved from WWE SmackDown! to Raw and joined them, with Randy Orton completing the group on January 20, 2003, and the name Evolution debuting two weeks later.
- At Royal Rumble 1994, WWE Champion Yokozuna defeated The Undertaker in a Casket Match after 10 other wrestlers got involved. In 1998 he is again the challenger for the Title at the Royal Rumble in a Casket Match, and again a total of 10 people are involved but this time it only really took 1, Kane (who set the casket on fire). It again started a this time shorter Hiatus. Then in 2005, Randy Orton and his father had a casket match with Undertaker, again winning by outnumbering him and then setting the casket on fire.
- In 1997, Kane started tormenting The Undertaker, and at the following WrestleMania (XIV), Taker defeated Kane. This was followed by a long period of general peace and cooperation between them, including a reign as the tag champs. In 2003, Kane buried Taker in a Buried Alive match, and at the following Wrestlemania (XX), Taker defeated Kane, leading to a general period of peace with some cooperation over the past four years. Seven—er, six—year rule magnified exactly.
- Speaking of The Undertaker and Kane, when the Undertaker first debuted, he was announced as "Cain The Undertaker." They didn't call him by that name again for over seven years, and then his brother "Kane" debuted.
- In 1994, there was an infamous "Undertaker vs. Undertaker" feud. Or more accurately, "Undertaker vs. Guy In Undertaker Costume Who Is Visibly Shorter And Less Muscular Than Undertaker". Fast forward to 2006, and there was a "Kane vs. Guy In Kane's Old Costume Who Is Visibly Shorter And Less Muscular Than Kane" feud. (The fake Kane was played by the same wrestler who played hillbilly Festus and CM Punk disciple Luke Gallows.)
- In 2010, Kane took out the Undertaker for a few months and the Undertaker came back for revenge. When Kane explained his actions, he stated it was because the Undertaker had shown weakness in his match with Shawn Michaels. Refer to the above, it is very similar to the storyline where Kane buried Taker alive because he showed weakness in helping protect Stephanie from Vince. It's subverted, however, in that this feud fully acknowledges the past storyline, saying that last time, the time wasn't right for Kane's "master plan", and that he's been building up to this since the year after he debuted. The timeline also fits; it had been about another six years.
- It had also been six years since Undertaker "killed" Paul Bearer, only for Bearer to return to be in 'Taker's corner. Though Bearer then betrayed Undertaker at the Hell in a Cell PPV two weeks later. Presumably he still remembers being buried in cement.
- He hinted on Twitter that he does, anyway.
- The feud then led to a Buried Alive match with Undertaker losing due to outside interference, leaving Kane to ask for a bulldozer to dump soil into the grave, almost seven years since the last time this happened (pictured above).
- WWE redid the Montreal Screwjob angle, wherein the referee, the owner/manager, and a smarmy wrestler conspire to "screw" a fan favorite out of a title. Anyways, the wrestler who got screwed over is the Undertaker, who then proceeded to abduct Teddy Long, in a manner reminiscent of the Not My Driver portion of the maligned "Higher Power" storyline when he abducted Stephanie in much the same way. Not only did they reuse old storylines, they mixed them together.
- WWE loves to reference and re-enact the Montreal Screwjob. It was repeated merely a year later at the 1998 Survivor Series, with Vince screwing over Mankind.
- Other companies like to reference it, too. Less than two months after the original, Bret Hart came out after the main event of Starrcade where Hulk Hogan pinned Sting and claimed referee (and nWo lackey) Nick Patrick made a quick count (well, he was supposed to in kayfabe, but mistakenly made a regular count, but that's neither here nor there) and yelled he wouldn't let "it" happen again. He restarted the match and Sting got Hogan to submit to the Scorpion Deathlock (which is the same hold as Bret's "Sharpshooter", and the move that HBK used on Bret when he was "screwed") to win. Years later, in TNA, Hogan and Kurt Angle re-enacted the Screwjob as well.
- And now they've done it again, but this time with a subversion. At Money in the Bank 2011, controversial heel CM Punk (Who was also involved in the Undertaker screwjob) threatened to leave the company with the belt after beating then current champ John Cena. When Cena had Punk locked in his signature submission, Vince and office stooge John Laurinaitis came down trying to screw Punk out of the title; however, Cena knocked out Vince's crony, saying that he was going to win this his way, only to have Punk use the distraction to hit Cena with the Go To Sleep, pin him, and leave the company with the championship.
- In late 1999, Triple H, the top heel, "married" Stephanie McMahon and used her power in the company to rule the roster with an iron fist as the McMahon-Helmsley Regime, allowing him to keep a strangle hold on the Championship. Cut to 2008 and the same thing is repackaged with Edge and Vickie Guerrero (who, like Steph, was part of a famous wrestling family). Ironically, back in 2000, Edge and his tag team partner Christian voiced confusion on whether the group was a regime or a faction (both terms were used throughout the stable's history) and settled on "Fac-gime."
- Life Imitates Art: In late 2003, Paul Levesque (Triple H) married Stephanie McMahon in real life, and (it can be argued) used their combined power in the company to rule the roster with an iron fist, allowing him to keep a strangle hold on the Championship.
- The feud between The Undertaker and Triple H at WrestleMania XXVII was this. They had last competed against each other at WrestleMania X-Seven. WWE went out of its way not to bring this up, and in fact acted as if Taker and Triple H had never faced each other at all before (despite having wrestled each other many times in the 1990's even). This tactic may have had a slightly better chance of working if it wasn't a WrestleMania they were expecting everyone to have forgotten about.
- In 1999, The Rock stole a win in an I Quit match over Mankind by playing a recording of Mankind yelling "I Quit!" and fooling the officials into awarding him the match. In 2011, The Miz stole a win in an I Quit match over John Cena with the exact same trick. Subverted, as it didn't work. The referee caught on to his trick.
- There are strong parallels between CM Punk's mid-summer 2011 storyline (TL;DR: his contract is revealed to be expiring the night that he competes for the WWE Championship, before which he proceeds to verbally shit all over WWE under Vince McMahon and John Cena's hegemony, threatening to take the belt to other promotions, and then actually won the belt in his hometown while letting his contract run out) and the "Summer of Punk" storyline in Ring of Honor (his supposedly final match was for the ROH World Heavyweight Championship, which he won only to reveal that he was going to WWE, sign his WWE contract on the title and then would be "chased" by the ROH roster attempting to take it back before he could run off with it).
- Much of the Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat feud of 1989 was a rehash of earlier angles, including Steamboat stripping Flair naked in the ring. The two hadn't wrestled in five years, and in the interim the business had experienced almost 100% fan turnover. Ergo, a slick updating of five-year-old spots was probably the top feud of the year.
- As much due to time as the original version occurring pre-TV.
- In 2003 Brock Lesnar was in a match against The Big Show for the Heavyweight Championship, one spot called for them to superplex off the second rope, which imploded the ring. Fast forward to 2011 and the Vengeance PPV and the spot happens all over again, this time with Mark Henry and the Big Show, again. Interestingly enough, Big Show was the victim of the "superplex" both times. Unlike Lesnar/Show, which was at the end of the show, Henry/Show was followed by a WWE Championship match with John Cena and Alberto Del Rio. It was a Last Man Standing Match, which worked out amazingly well.
- 1997-ish, Mini Mankind & Mini Vader. 2009-ish, Mini Everyone
- Like the popularity of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin leading into the Attitude Era in the late 90s, it's happening all over again now with CM Punk being the straight-talking, Pepsi drinking Anti-Hero who rebels against WWE's management. Punk being likened to Austin, as well as a new Attitude Era coming, certainly help in making the comparison to the late 90s. Whether this is all an elaborate storyline/gambit on the part of Vince McMahon and the creative team is unknown, but if it is, it makes this one hell of a Batman Gambit, and Vince one hell of a Magnificent Bastard/Chessmaster for him to know the fans would immediately love Punk.
- Around 2004, former WCW wrestler Ernest "The Cat" Miller made his WWE debut, basically a joke character who danced in the ring to the song "Somebody Call My Mama", and provided the 2004 Royal Rumble with its very own Big Lipped Alligator Moment before pretty much disappearing. Eight years later, a wrestler named Brodus Clay made his Raw debut (he was formerly a WWE NXT rookie and a bodyguard for Alberto Del Rio), another dancer, with the exact same theme song that everyone onscreen acts like they've never heard before.
- In 2002, Hulk Hogan and the Rock finally met in the ring for the first time at WrestleMania X8. It was touted as a meeting of two legends from two eras. Ten years later, the Rock and John Cena meet under the same terms at WrestleMania XXVIII. It would be no surprise to see John Cena and the then-current force in professional wrestling having the same encounter at the 38th WrestleMania.
- Rock & Wrestling Era: a mega-heel called The One Man Gang (a big white guy from Chicago) is transformed into the "African Dream" Akeem after "discovering his African roots".note WWE, Inc. Era (a return to the cartoonish-ness of the Rock & Wrestling Era): A-Train (a huge white guy; before that, he was known as Albert) returns after 8 years as Lord Tensai (later just Tensai), having "found himself" in Japan. Which actually has some basis in reality, since Matt "A-Train" Bloom did spend several years wrestling in Japan as Giant Bernard. They eventually gave up on that gimmick and renamed him "Sweet T" Tensai as Brodus Clay's partner in the wacky dancing big fat guy comedy team Tons of Funk.
- A TNA example: at Final Resolution 2010, Jay Lethal faced Robbie E for the TNA X Division Championship, with Cookie suspended above the ring in a shark cage so she could not interfere. During the match, Cookie threw a foreign object down, which Lethal used against Robbie and was disqualified, allowing Robbie to retain. Just over a year later, at Genesis 2012, Mickie James faced Gail Kim for the Knockouts championship, with Madison Rayne suspended above the ring in the same shark cage. Gail retained in a similar way to Robbie (champion's partner deploys foreign object, challenger uses it, is disqualified).
- Ryback's gimmick, in which he wins very short squash matches and then demands another opponent, has garnered chants of "Goldberg" from the crowd because of their many similarities. It doesn't help that Ryback even looks like Goldberg.
- Stop me if you've heard this one before: Third-generation wrestler with a gimmick name where he takes the first name from his famous father and the last name from his famous grandfather. Does this describe Rocky Maivia, or Curtis Axelnote ?
- TNA example: AJ Styles has been broody throughout a good part of 2013. Outlaw biker stable Aces & Eights picks up on this and tries to win AJ to their side, to which they almost succeed when Kurt Angle is attacked by AJ while wearing one of their vests. However, this is short-lived as AJ shows he's not playing for Aces & Eights either and lashes out against them too, stating he is "his own man". Clearly drawing inspiration from WCW teasing Sting joining the nWo in 1996 (almost unashamedly rehashing if not for this trope's existence).
- One of the most famous feuds of the 1990's was when the Undertaker's manager, Paul Bearer, turned on 'Taker and aligned himself with Kane. Bearer repeatedly threatened to reveal a dark family secret about the Undertaker's past, which eventually culminated in a pay-per-view match with the Undertaker against Kane, and if Undertaker lost, Bearer would reveal the secret. Undertaker won the match, but Bearer revealed the secret anyway: That Kane was the Undertaker's supposedly long-dead half brother. Fast-forward to 2005, when Eddie Guerrero turned on his tag team partner, Rey Mysterio. Eddie repeatedly threatened to reveal a dark family secret about Rey's past, which eventually culminated in a pay-per-view match with Rey against Eddie, and if Rey lost, Eddie would reveal the secret. Rey won, but Eddie revealed the secret anyway: That Rey's son Dominik was actually Eddie's from a period of time in which he was separated from his wife.
- WWE has recycled the "supergenius heel" character a few times: Lanny Poffo became "The Genius" from 1989-91. Later "Dean Douglas" graced us all with his presence. Then, 15 years later, we get the smug intellectual Damien Sandow.
- In 2013, WWE hyped up the first match between John Cena and Daniel Bryan as being a really big deal but it was really just the first match they ever had in nine years since they first squared off on WWE Velocity.
- Warhammer 40,000 and other Warhammer products have new revisions brought out every four or five years, that being the length of time most players stick with the hobby, according to Games Workshop.
- LEGO will always have a Space-like, underwater-like, castle-like or robot-like theme. Only the characters and sets are new. Justified in that the sets will contain enough new parts or features to make it worthwhile.
- Example from the Indiana Jones-like Lines: Adventurers (1998 - 2000), Orient Expedition (2003), Indiana Jones (2008 - 2009), Atlantis (2010 - 2011, is also underwater-like), Pharaoh´s Quest (2011).
- And every generation of the castle theme has a catapult set.
- In the town theme, new police and fire stations are released on a 3 year cycle, like clockwork.
- Lego's Star Wars line has run long enough that they now rerelease vehicles that already got playsets. This began in 2004 exclusively for OT sets because LEGOs style changed widely and made some sets look side by side like cars from the 50s next to ones from the 90s and flesh colored figures were introduced. Now the quality of the design updates vary as many models can´t be designed that much better unless they change the size and price range (Slave One for example is the same thing with different colors and functions since 2002).
- They run with this trope sometimes. A set of smaller police cars and firetrucks were on shelves constantly from 2005 till 2013 because they figured kids would need basic things like them all the time.
- Many action figure companies (especially back in the '90s, and especially Kenner) release versions of a figure or vehicle from a couple years ago with a new color scheme, and attempt to pass it off as a new one. Usually by this time the original is no longer for sale and has been dropped from the listing on the back of the box/card. Amusingly, sometimes the "new" figure will have completely new flavor text and new names for its special actions and accessories, even though it's just describing the same thing in different words.
- Transformers, in particular, makes absolutely no attempt to hide this. In fact, in the franchise's first year, several sets of characters who were just each other in different colors came out all at once, with the toys sold on shelves right next to each other and the cartoon and comic book making no effort to disguise their identicalness. In fact, the cartoon took it Up to Eleven, using variously-colored Starscreams as generic Mooks.
- Interestingly, this element has actually become embraced by much of the Transformers fan base—when a new toy is released of a character who was once well known for having a variety of repaints, demand will rise among fans for recolored versions of that toy representing his recolors from prior series. In addition to the aforementioned Starscream, Bumblebee being recolored as Cliffjumper is a common recurring theme, with a few exceptions.
- This strip from Shortpacked! shows a toy fan realizing the frustrations inherent when companies take advantage of this trope because the fans let them.
- Expect Multiplex to inform you when this trope is in play with a current movie. Jason being a movie snob requires him to point them out.
- The seventh season of South Park began with a rerun of the first episode. After a while, the characters all became aware of this and things went differently
- There have been instances where a character admits to doing something bad, and during his speech, he makes a subtle "The Reason You Suck" Speech to more famous people standing by him, all of whom are sporting nervous grins as he speaks. This occurred in "Butters' Very Own Episode" (2001) and "Up the Down Steroid" (2004).
- Also whenever Cartman's racism makes him paranoid about potential disasters, such as "Pee" (2009) and "World War Zimmerman" (2013).
- For decades, Disney would release their animated films in theaters every seven years, starting with the re-release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) in 1944. Walt Disney thought that after seven years, there would be a new crop of children who hadn't seen the earlier release. This way, Disney reasoned, not only does it refresh the movies to a new generation, but avoids the Animation Age Ghetto by making the otherwise age-focused fare into nostalgia value. This was considered such holy writ that, when then-CEO Michael Eisner looked to release Disney movies to the VHS market in a desperate attempt to save the company, there was more than the usual amount of teeth-gnashing and doomsaying over how he was selling the farm and no one would ever buy Disney products again.
- Disney has found a new way to do this; re-release the old movies every seven years, perhaps with updated graphics, and with special features once DVDs came out. Now, with the advent of Blu-Ray, they're getting rereleased again in the new format.
- This may have also inspired George Lucas to both theatrically release the updated Star Wars original trilogy and avoid the mistakes Eisner and Disney made. The updates and the long absence from theaters also helped justify the original trilogy reshows.
- Family Guy had an episode in 2001 where Lois begins fighting using "Tae Jitsu" because Peter runs all over her and doesn't respect her. Fast forward 9 years, and there's another episode where Lois becomes a boxer because Peter runs all over her and doesn't respect her.
- Really, "Lois aggressively pursues (X activity) because Peter doesn't respect her" is pretty much a stock plot for Family Guy. How about the episode where Lois becomes a lounge singer, or where she becomes a model (over the objections of Peter AND her father)?
- Also anytime Meg goes on full Yandere mode, like in "Barely Legal" (2006), "The Hand That Rocks the Wheelchair" (2011) and "Friends Without Benefits" (2012).
- Also, Quagmire has been married and regretted it twice (once to a Yandere, and once to an elderly prostitute.
- During The Golden Age of Animation, this trope was employed partly due to the fact that movie theaters wouldn't rerun older cartoons anyway, particularly if they were from the black and white era once Technicolor became the standard. So plots could be re-used after enough years had gone by. The Popeye series was particularly guilty of this, once Famous Studios took over.
- Eidetic memory is the exact opposite of this. But cases of it are extremely rare. Yet, even if it were more common, most have a built-in Weirdness Censor that prevents It's Been Done warnings from being taken seriously.
- To an extent and modified for regional issues, all politicians love to abuse this trope, worldwide, making promises to attract votes that they more likely than not won't keep, even if they actually intended to do so when making them. Arguably easier in two-party systems, where all that the minority party needs to do is get the populace sufficiently angry at the Status Quo, regardless of said minority's own merits or previous actions.
- Scammers also love to abuse this trope, hoping that their potential victims won't recall reports of every other time the scam they want to attempt has harmed others.
- The current global economic crisis has a root cause common to the recession in The Eighties: overleveraging shaky mortgages. Fundamentally the same thing (just replace "shaky mortgages" with "shaky stock trades") caused The Great Depression.
- Many historians have noted that, in US history at least, there's a major economic depression every sixty to seventy years or so; the Great Depression was preceded by the Panic of 1819 and the Long Depression of 1873-79.